A very anxious grade 10 girl stepped off a bus from Polokwane at the Pretoria station back in May, 2006. Being one of the winners of a national competition did not seem much fun at the time -- her first time away from home in Seshego.
||Jerida Mathipa, a winner in the 2006 Africa-Japan Essay and Speech Competition, received her BSc degree from UCT in December 2011.
Jerida Mathipa came to Pretoria to receive speech training, organised by SAASTA, since she was about to represent South Africa in a speech competition to be held in Japan. At that stage she did not realise that her stepping off the bus would change the whole direction of her life.
Jerida was the winner of the category for senior high school learners in a competition initiated by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), in partnership with the Science and Technology Office in the South African Embassy in Japan. The Africa-Japan Essay and Speech (AJSE) Competition was held between learners and tertiary students from Japan, South Africa and Zambia. The theme of the competition was Making Science and Technology a Foundation for Partnership between Africa and Japan.
That year, SAASTA had been requested by DST to implement and administer the South African leg of the competition. Participants were required to write an essay based on the competition theme and the winners would participate on this topic in a speech competition in Japan.
The competition was simultaneously implemented in South Africa, Zambia and Japan, involving high school learners in grades 8 to 12, as well as university students (including at under- and postgraduate levels), who had an interest in international relations and science and technology.
A few weeks later, her speech training completed, Jerida stepped on the airplane with Zia Maharaj, a junior high-school learner from Gauteng (now in her second year of medical studies at the University of Pretoria), and Jasmeer Ramlal, an Honours student in engineering at the University of Pretoria (now working for Sasol), the other two winners of the SA leg of the competition.
All the finalists from the three competing countries presented their 15-minute speeches in Japan on 21 July 2006. The overall winners were selected on the basis of the speeches given for this international leg of the competition. From South Africa, Zia won a first prize and Jerida and Jasmeer both won second prizes in their respective categories.
Back home, SAASTA staff kept in contact with the competition winners and it was with great shock that they read about the tragic death of Jerida's mother in the paper a year later. Jerida was in Grade 11 at the time and was sharing an informal home with her mother and sister. The two sisters were left destitute after their mother had passed away.
Through contributions in kind and financially, SAASTA staff, their friends and family supported the two girls, but in the April of her matric year Jerida indicated that she had no choice but to go out and look for work.
Ina Roos, Corporate Editor at SAASTA received the call from Jerida while she was away on a long weekend and shared the sad news with her friends. Fortunately one of the friends had a possible solution. He contacted acquaintances at Eskom's social services in Polokwane, who stepped in and provided assistance to get Jerida through her matric year. She passed well, with two distinctions, and was offered an Eskom bursary.
Six years after the AJSE Competition, in December 2011, an ecstatic 20-year old Jerida graduated at the University of Cape Town as an environmental scientist. She is now working for Eskom in Polokwane and has enrolled for an Honours degree in environmental science at Unisa.
Remember the name ... Jerida (or Mmapula as she now prefers to be called) is still going places.